Recipes for gardeners who cook and cooks who garden
June 25, 2008 · Updated 11:18 AM
"Photo: Ann Campbell in her Langley kitchen, with its warm aga and herb plants ready to use.Joan Soltys/staff photoAlmost every gardener knows the name Smith & Hawken, which from its beginning more than 20 years ago has been, in the words of author and chef Victoria Wise, a purveyor of finely turned garden tools that make you want to get out and work in the garden. Langley gardener Ann Campbell is, as are so many others, a Smith & Hawken devotee. She also loves to cook, and it was with interest that she saw a notice about two years ago directed to gardeners who cook or cooks who garden. The company was asking for recipes using the fruits and vegetables of their labors, for inclusion in a Gardeners Community Cookbook.I didnt hear anything for a while, and then was notified that my recipe would be published, Campbell said. And when she received a copy of the book, she was gratified to see the names of some of the other contributors.Im in good company, she said -- Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, cookbook author Barbara Kafka... Other well-known professionals include Rose Levy Beranbaum, Barbara Damrosch, Ken Hom, Thomas Keller, Sheila Lukins, Deborah Madison Lindsey Shere and Paula Wolfert. Plus more than 350 gardeners from all 50 states, including herb growers, patio container gardeners, heirloom vegetable farmers and, says the book jacket, the best tomato growers on the block.They all join in a celebration of food that ranges from a Spinach and Strawberry Salad to a Lamb-in-a-Pumpkin Supper, and Campbells own Tomato, Basil, and Cheese Pie.Its a pretty simple custard pie, really, but good for a party or a picnic, Campbell said. What she wrote for the book was: This recipe is simply delicious. Its our favorite late-August dish here at Peace & Plenty Farm. The editor adds: Combining cottage cheese and fresh basil with what is essentially a savory custard works marvelously to provide a cushy filling for the fresh tomato slices that complete the dish. The recipe is included in a section on Picnic Pies, which should be transportable, that is, sturdy enough to take the ride without collapsing and not in need of a refrigerator to keep it fresh for a few hours.Campbell says she and her husband Tom love gardening and food we can grow. The couple moved to the Island about 10 years ago from downtown Chicago. It was the only place I ever got to choose, she said, explaining that Tom had been a career Navy man, which required many moves. The Langley acreage became Peace & Plenty Farm, with a huge garden that grows almost everything. In April everything is pristine, with no weeds. By August, all is lost, she laughed. Campbell is heavy into herbs and grows them on the patio where its very convenient for cooking. She recently found a plant called a saffron crocus whose bulbs yield the precious saffron strings.And then there is Stevia rebaudiana, an herb from Paraguay, whose leaves taste like sugar. One teaspoon dried is equal to one cup of sugar! she said.And did you know there are at least 10 varieties of garlic?Campbell cooks in the kitchen of a home that dates back to the turn of the century but which is fitted out with the latest of contemporary culinary equipment and appliances -- including a new-century version of the venerable aga -- a cooker made famous in Agatha Christie-vintage country house mystery stories.The couple has also traveled widely to places where food and cooking are important aspects of a culture.Its fun to be a foodie who also gardens, Campbell said.The CookbookThe Smith and Hawken Gardeners Community Cookbook includes 400 recipes by 350 gardeners from all 50 states, including several well-known professionals. It is compiled by Victoria Wise, author of 20 cookbooks, an alumna of Chez Panisse and founder of Pig-by-the Tail, the first American Charcuterie. Price is $19.95; available at most bookstores or from Workman Publishing, New York (www.workmanweb.com). A two percent royalty from the sale of the cookbook will go to the charitable hunger relief organization Second Harvest.The RecipeTomato, Basil and Cheese PieOne 10-inch pre-baked tart crust3 large tomatoes, sliced 3/8 inch thick (1 1/2 pounds)Salt1 cup (firmly packed) fresh basil leaves1/2 cup small-curd cottage cheese2 large eggs1/2 cup coarsely grated or chopped mozzarella cheese1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheeseOil, for brushing tomatoes on top of the pie1. Prepare the tart crust and set aside. 2. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F.3. Lightly sprinkle the tomato slices with salt on both sides. Set the slices on paper towels to absorb the liquid as the slices drain. Set aside.4. Place the basil, cottage cheese and eggs in a food processor and blend until well combined. Add the mozzarella, Parmesan, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and continue blending until well mixed.5. To assemble the pie, pat the tomato slices dry and line the bottom of the pie shell with the end pieces. Spoon the cheese mixture over them and spread to smooth. Arrange the remaining tomato slices in one overlapping layer over the top of the cheese mixture. Brush the top layer of tomato slices with a little oil and place the pie in the oven.6. Bake until the edges of the crust are crispy and golden and the cheese mixture is firm enough that a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove and let cool for about 15 minutes before slicing. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cover and store in the refrigerator and serve the next day.Serves 4 to 6"